WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Catholic University men's soccer team advanced to the Landmark Conference Championship on Tuesday with a 5-3 win over Moravian at Carlini Field.
The No. 21 Cardinals (17-2-1, 8-0 LC) earned the chance to compete in their second consecutive conference championship after an entertaining semifinal matchup that featured eight goals scored, a hat-trick from forward Ben Alexander, and a penalty kick save from goalkeeper Jack Long.
The hosts got on the board right away with a clinical finish from Alexander just after two minutes. Senior defender Mitch Ford recorded his second career assist with a long through ball that Alexander corraled and fired into the net from the left side of the box.
The first goal was just the start as sophomore midfielder Darius Siahpoosh created another scoring chance when he was brought down in the box on a breakaway. Alexander stepped up to the spot for the penalty chance and struck the ball right down the middle for a second goal in the 8th minute.
After Moravian (11-7-1, 4-4 LC) earned a penalty kick of its own just two minutes later, Long dove to his left and made a great save to deny Anthony Nagy and preserve the two-goal advantage. Later on in the 29th minute, the Greyhounds got on the board with a header goal off a long free kick to cut the lead in half.
A beautiful team goal restored the two-goal lead in the 37th minute before halftime. Sophomore CJ Ballard played a dangerous short cross into the box from the right side and junior Franco Caltabiano jumped up to glance his header into the left netting for his second career goal, putting Catholic up 3-1.
In two contests this season, the Cardinals scored 11 goals against the Greyhounds.
The visitors got back into the contest with the second half's first goal in the 59th minute to make the contest 3-2, but the Cardinals answered right away less than a minute later. Junior midfielder Philip Meszaros played a hard cross on the ground that was knicked in by sophomore Paul Egan just 39 seconds later to extend the lead at 4-2.
Alexander drew a foul in the box later in the game thanks to a pretty first touch which led him into the penalty area after a long cross from Mike Narzikul. The sophomore striker drilled the chance into the net for his third tally of the evening in the 84th minute.
Alexander's first career hat-trick brought him to 16 goals on the season, a mark that leads the Landmark. He moved into fifth in program history for most goals in a single season, and fourth all-time at Catholic with 36 points on the season.
An 87th minute goal was not enough in a valiant effort from Moravian as the Cardinals prevailed 5-3 in front of a large crowd at Carlini Field.
The Landmark Championship will feature the same opponents as the 2018 contest, Catholic and Elizabethtown. The third-seeded Blue Jays topped Scranton 1-0 in overtime Tuesday for a chance to defend their title after a 1-0 win in last year's championship. Kickoff time at Carlini Field on Saturday, November 9 is set for 1 p.m.